An empirical investigation of determinants of tourist destination image

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Virginia Tech


The research of the past two decades in travel and tourism has demonstrated that tourism destination image is a valuable construct in investigating the destination selection process and behavior of travelers. Most studies of consumer decision making in tourism have investigated the relationship between image of a destination and preference or visitation intentions for the destination. As competition among tourism destinations is getting more intense, it becomes increasingly important to understand the dynamic structure of image by studying forces or influences contributing to destination image formation so that a more effective image creation and correction strategy can be articulated.

In the last two decades, research in travel and tourism has investigated many important issues regarding the image concept and contributed to understanding of tourist destination image. However, although numerous researchers across different fields emphasized the importance of understanding the forces contributing to image formation process, it has not received much attention in travel and tourism studies. Building upon the works from several fields and disciplines such as consumer behavior and marketing, travel and tourism, environmental psychology and geography, this study developed and empirically tested a conceptual model of the determinants of tourist destination image (image formation process).

A major finding of the study was that a tourist destination in1age is formed by both stimulus factors and travelers' characteristics. The image of a tourism destination is dynamic and developed by chains of influences. The findings of a path analysis indicated that variety and type of information sources used, age and education influence perceptual/cognitive evaluations of tourism destinations. The perceptual/cognitive eval uatiol1s and socio-psychological travel motivations together influence affective evaluations of tourism destinations. The perceptual/cognitive and affective evaluations, then. form an overall Image of tourism destinations. It was also found that the overall image was more likely influenced by affect than perceptual/cognitive evaluations and affect together. In other words, affect serves as an intervening variable between perceptual/cognitive evaluations and overall image.

The study contributed to the theoretical advancement of destination linage formation in the field of travel and tourism. It also contributed to consumer behavior and marketing by providing a structural model by which a simultaneous empirical treatment of the elements influencing image was investigated. The results of this study provided important implications for strategic image management and can aid in designing and implementing marketing programs for creating and enhancing tourist destination images. They can also aid in tailoring images for specific target markets, positioning tourism destinations, and designing advertising and promotional programs.



tourism destination, affect, path analysis, cognition, image